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Earthwork Castles of Gwent and Ergyng AD 1050-1250: Rowlestone Motte

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1050 - 1250


This summary concerning Rowlestone Motte is an extract from a Doctoral thesis by Dr N Phillips, University of Sheffield (2005), entitled ‘Earthwork Castles of Gwent and Ergyng, AD 1050-1250’. This thesis is concerned with the earthwork and timber castles built in the southern March of Wales, addresses the presence of the castles and discusses their roles as weapons of conquest and structures of administrative control.


ROWLESTONE Grid: SO 37442 27164




Rowlestone motte is sited some 2km south-west of Ewyas Harold. It is reached by taking a south-west turn from the A465, Hereford to Abergavenny road just before the turn to Ewyas Harold, following the lane to the top of the hill and at the crossroads turning right. The earthwork stands in the yard of Rowlestone Farm which is private property.


The motte is situated high on a south westerly facing ridge overlooking the Cwm Brook, which flows into the River Monnow at Llangua. The motte is a small earthen mound covered with thick vegetation. The photograph shows one of the more recognisable sides (Vol. 2. plate 226). The mound is almost completely surrounded by a wet ditch which is fed from a stream. The second photograph shows the south-west section of the motte where the stream leaves the moat to continue its descent to the valley (Vol. 2. plate 227). The map shows the layout of the site as it was in the late 1940s (Vol. 2. figure 101). Today the site has altered a little in that farm buildings now occupy the whole area that Kay marked as ‘site of bailey’. Even the moat has been built over on the south-east corner.

Topographic survey: (Survey 46)

The motte is some 4.06m high with a surface area of 368.29m² and occupies an original base area of some 820.907m². It is possible that the motte may have been higher as there is a lot of damage on the top and the steepness of the sides at 71.7% would certainly allow for more height whilst still retaining a relatively large top area.

There is no bailey evident at the site but extensive farm buildings to the east may have obliterated any trace.

Strategic location:

The location of the site has no natural defence although it does occupy a high ridge giving it a good vantage point as a watch-tower. The strategic advantage of the site may lie in its proximity to Ewyas Harold and Llancillo, both mentioned earlier.

Documentary evidence

Modern reference:

There is no documentary evidence for the earthwork at Rowlestone although a link has been made with John Turbeville for 1266 (cited in Remfry 1998. 18). An earlier interpretation was offered by Marshall who suggested that four carucates of land held in Cutesorn Hundred included Rowlestone (1938. 148). The record states that ‘in the castlery of Ewyas Earl William gave 4 carucates of waste land to Walter de Lacy. Roger his son holds them, and William fitz Osbern from him’ (Thorn & Thorn 1983. 184a).

Additional references:

VCH 1908. 229-230.

RCHME 1931. 223.

King 1983. 210.

Interpretation: Motte (Watchtower) (Early)

The interpretation of the site, based on actual remains, survey and location is that the small motte was probably an early watch-tower, and the possible association with the two castles mentioned above may help to date it as an early construction. If the motte was indeed an outpost of either of the castles cited above then a bailey would probably not have been needed as the site would be abandoned once a warning was received.



The material is copyright by the author, and is reproduced here from the Archaeology Data Service website of the University of York for research purposes under their terms of use


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